Gabriel Malor reviews Avatar at AOSHQ, and kind of likes it for its awesome special effects, in spite of the Commie political message.
John Podhoretz at The Weekly Standard can't get past the Commie message and hates it.
I just saw it. My take: utterly lame-ass and laughable Commiecrat and romanticize the primitive politics in the film, and a story that heavily takes from other movies such as "Dances With Wolves" (in fact, wags are calling it Dances With Smurfs because the alien creatures are blue) , Disney's "Pocahontas" and "Quigley Down Under", done in a Sci-Fi context with lots of CGI animation. Except for some creative imagining of animal and plant life on another world with a different atmosphere, and of course those undeniably awesome special effects, nothing is original in this movie.
John Podhoretz states that:
[T]he movie is nearly three hours long, and it doesn't have a single joke in it.
But honestly, there were a few unintentional funny moments in the film. The mineral the corporation and its mercenary army are seeking is called "unobtanium". As opposed to Upsadaisyium? I half expected Rocky and Bullwinkle avatars after that. The subsequent "floating mountains" in the movie didn't help either. (Mount Flatten!)
On the upside, Gabriel Malor is right: it's visually gorgeous, loud, and stuff blows up in really cool ways. And the 3-D version I saw didn't overkill on the gimmicky pop-right-out-at-the-audience shots. After the first 20 minutes, I stopped noticing the 3D glasses and just saw the movie. On the level of an action flick with cool explosions, you could like it.
You just have to overlook gaping holes in the plot. For no good reason other than to get the movie into its second act, the shallow corporate head honcho and the (obviously) evil and sadistic military commander decide to stage a military attack on the massive Tree City where the funky giant blue critters live, thus blowing the zillions of dollars they sank into the project of making blue critter avatar ambassadors in the hope of negotiating with the blue critters.
They attack the massive Tree City where the blue critters live simply because "It's the largest deposit of Unobtanium in two hundred clicks!" gushes the shallow corporate, played by Giovanni Ribisi. As if 200km is that major a distance in travel, even today, to say nothing of an interstellar traveling future. And as if the corporation wouldn't have picked easier deposits to mine first where the pesky blue critter tribes weren't. Path of least resistance and all that.
Suspension called and it said the disbelief load is way too heavy to carry, even if you fancy the idea of plugging your fiber optic cable tail into Mother Gaia and having sex with her.
If the special effects were not there, if Avatar were drawn like a regular cartoon, or had been made on sound stages with sets and the like, would anyone really like this movie? Nope. Even the most hard core eco-greenie won't claim there was a really deep message here. Unlike the protagonists in Cameron's Titanic, who you could cheer on even as you knew at least one of them was doomed, none of the characters in the movie comes across as anything more than a cartoon.